Early in my residency, I realized that like Pavlov's Russian dogs of yore, the other surgeons-in-training and I had developed a conditioned response to our electronic pagers. Our blood would rush and our breath disappear at the sight of one five-digit extension on our beeper's screen. The emergency room was calling.It wasn't that we disliked the E.R. Some of our most memorable training experiences occurred there. It was just the sheer crowding of that area of the hospital that made our stomachs drop. Day and night, the hallways of the E.R. were lined with gurneys, sometimes parked two rows deep. Patients were forced to wait, or "board," on those flimsy narrow stretchers until a bed became free at the "Inn," as the E.R. staff referred to the rest of hospital.